Monday, 10 October 2011

Producer Tony Platt on digital tuning benefits.

What piece of technology do you think has been the most detrimental in the evolution of the recording realm?

'It would be the digital guitar tuner. When I first started, there were no guitar tuners, guitarists would tune to the piano, as the piano was always in tune in the studio. And so the guitar players always had the capacity to hold a guitar in tune. If they heard a string going out, they’d pull it a little bit to bring it back in. So things weren’t absolutely perfectly in tune but there wasn’t this focus of attention on the tuning so much. People were focusing on getting the feel right and getting it to where it was exciting. Now what happens is one string goes out of tune, everything stops, guitarist plugs into his tuner, tunes his guitar and then starts off again, but it has broken the momentum of the session so much. And again what happens is we have this overabundance of guitar players who have this overriding reliance on this piece of technology. They’re not thinking of tuning in their head, they’re not hearing the tuning in there, they’re looking at it, on the scale on the tuner.'

I saw this quoted on a forum as part of the discussion about tuning, and whether having everything perfectly was removing some of the soulfulness and feeling of music. We have become used to the idea of pitch-perfection, and ears accustomed to modern recordings often find older recordings unpleasant to listen to - at first. There's one particular track a friend of ours (Marc B Chapman) has on his Album 'Hiding Place' where a slide guitar doesn't quite make it to pitch, and at first it grated terribly. However after a few listens it now seems perfectly acceptable.

In a similar way, the guitar I used for the first 10 years or so was much stronger on the G string, and I'd play around that, either picking more gently to even it up or using it for extra sustain and girth when playing leads. Hendrix used strats upside down, and that similarly altered string outputs because of the staggered pickup pole pieces making string output unbalanced. Now all my guitars have an even output, and while that's nice for strumming, you only really get 2 tones (bare and wound strings) across the neck.

I wonder if all this 'wonderful' technology is actually taking over the very organic process we used to call making music?

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